Sept. 9: Former GNLF leader Chhatrey Subba and seven others were today acquitted of the charges of masterminding an attack 10 years ago on then DGHC chairperson Subash Ghisingh.
The assassination bid on February 10, 2001, at Saath Ghumti had failed but two drivers accompanying Ghisingh were killed and so was an alleged attacker in the assault with automatic rifles and grenades. Fourteen persons were arrested.
I am happy that finally we have been delivered justice. I had to spend all these years behind bars after being falsely implicated in the case, said 71-year-old Chhatrey, after coming out of Jalpaiguri district court.
Asked if he would join the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which had met chief minister Mamata Banerjee requesting her for Chhatreys speedy trial, he said: I am not thinking about politics right now. I will go to hills and take rest for some days.
Two other accused in the case, Amar Lama and Norden Lama, have already joined the Morcha. While Amar had been acquitted earlier, Norden, was out on bail.
Neither the GNLF chief nor any other party leaders were available for comment.
Government lawyer Milan Sarkar, who had been appointed special public prosecutor in the case, said the court had expressed dissatisfaction with the role of Dhruba Chhetri, the investigating officer in the case. All the accused have been acquitted. They will be released from Jalpaiguri Central Jail this evening, he said.
Around 25 supporters of the CPRM, which had been agitating for Chhatreys release, had assembled at the Jalpaiguri court premises from the morning. Additional sessions judge (first track) Sanchita Sarkar announced the verdict acquitting him and the others around 2.30pm.
According to court sources, in the 66-page order, the judge said the evidence submitted by the investigating officer was perfunctory, which is why the accused could not be convicted as guilty.
We interpret his release as justice delivered to the hill people after several years, CPRM leader and former vice-chairman of Kurseong municipality Balaram Chhetri, said. Chhatrey would be escorted to hills, where people will celebrate and rejoice his release.
Chhatrey sped out of the jail in a Bolero for his Kalimpong home at 4.30pm.
He had languished in jail for years and finally got justice. He has lost precious 10 years of his life. We welcome him to the hills, said Morcha spokesperson and Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri.
Akhil Biswas, a lawyer from Siliguri who represented Chhatrey, said eight IPS officers were involved in the case. Some of them were investigators, others had deposed as witnesses. We had been insisting that Chhatrey had been a victim of a conspiracy hatched by Ghisingh and the then state government, which had staged the attack to revive Ghisinghs image in the hills. Chhatrey and the others were made scapegoats to make the attack look real. It was a pure political case and he fell victim to it, losing 10 long years of his life.
The court heard over 70 prosecution witnesses including Ghisingh, and finally, acquitted Chhatrey and others who were framed, the lawyer said.
He said four-five appeals had been made to the high court for bail between 2003 and 2011. All of them were rejected. We had also appealed in the Supreme Court. Chhatrey had a heart problem and had to be hospitalised frequently. Once he was even taken to SSKM Hospital, Biswas said.
In the eighties, when the Gorkhaland movement under Ghisingh started, Chhatrey was heading the militant wing of the GNLF. He however, fell out with Ghisingh after the DGHC was formed in 1988 and went on to form the Gorkhaland Liberation Organisation.
Chhatreys outfit continued to clamour for a separate Gorkhaland state even as Ghisingh agreed to autonomy for the hills. In 1993, five years after the DGHC accord was signed, Chhatrey went into self-imposed political exile and his organisation too, went into oblivion.
It was revived again in 2000 and the GLO allegedly issued threats to Ghisingh, warning him to step down as DGHC chairperson by December on the same year. The next year Ghisingh was attacked and Chhatrey was arrested with 13 others.
In 2003, when the first hearing took place, the court released Dimple Dewan, the sole woman accused in the case, and five others.
Among the remaining eight, two were out on bail while six, including Chhatrey, had been languishing behind bars. Kumar Chettri, Bijoy Chettri, Shyam Bahadur Karki, Sharan Dewan and Gunja Lama were among those who walked out of the jail today.
Norden Lama and Mohan Sharma, who were out on bail, were also acquitted of all charges.